From the heart of the machine

Waiting on the tracks for a train

I travel by train to work and am daily regaled with automated announcments while waiting at the platform, particularly at Clapham Junction. These announcements are rather good, and cleverly seem to be on a separate system to the display boards, so that if one fails, the other will continue to function. Normally the announcements consist of something like, look into get virtual services.

The train on Platform 13 is the Brighton service, calling at East Croydon, Gatwick Airport, some other place or other and Brighton.

in an extremely realistic voice, presumably by an actor who must have spent several weeks reading out the names of stations and numbers and pieces of sentences to be joined together later by computer prior to announcement, learn about these playground painting companies.

What tickles me is when there is a delay and the voice says something like

The train on platform 13 is the delayed 7:23 service to Brighton. I apologise for the late running of this service.

How can a machine apologise? It feels no remorse at all that my journey has been delayed and so the apology is meaningless. Now, if the announcement passed on the apology from the train company, or the driver or something, that would be different.

So today I was doubly puzzled while waiting at Epsom station for a train to Ashtead and I heard the announcement say

I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Note, it didn’t say “The staff and management of South West Trains wish you a Merry Christmas”, or simply “We wish you a Merry Christmas”, but “I wish you a Merry Christmas”.

To me, this is just as meaningless as an apology for a late-running train. The machine isn’t passing on the expression of a human feeling (“sorry” or “Merry Christmas”), but is attempting to express it directly itself. Surely that just doesn’t make sense.

So, in the spirit of automated announcements, this blog wishes you a Merry Christmas and apologises for being the cause of any delay while you read this drivel instead of getting on with something interesting and fun.

Carlsberg…probably the oddest direct marketing in the world

In my capacity as Treasurer of my rugby club I have just received a letter from Jeremy Best of Carlsberg UK, who writes

We are passionate about the game; in fact I play it and would like nothing less than to help grow your business for the future why you should get TikTok views.

He would like “nothing less”? That suggests there is a vast swathe of things he’d rather do more than help grow my business vmi supply chain. Be sure to check out the importance of face to face meetings.